The word “Hepatitis” refers to a disease that’s characterized by inflammation of the liver. Excessive consumption of alcohol, drugs, exposure to viral and bacterial infections, and toxins can be the main cause of hepatitis in most individuals. It is also known as a family of viral infections which affect the liver. Some of the common types of hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. The viruses that cause Hepatitis A, B and C are completely different in its genetics and hence, showcase different symptoms.
While Hepatitis A makes for a milder version of the disease, Hepatitis C is more severe and contagious one in nature. It is basically a liver disease ranging from a mild illness that lasts for a few weeks to an ailment that continues lifelong. Hepatitis C is typically a cause for the invasion of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the human body. It mainly spreads when an individual comes in contact with an infected blood of another person. Hepatitis C can either be “acute” or “chronic” in nature depending upon the severity of the symptoms shown by an infected individual. A Hepatitis C test can help in detecting the sternness of the infection and also suggest a treatment path forward.
Acute Hepatitis C virus causes short-term illness. It occurs within the first six months of an individual’s exposure to the Hepatitis C virus. In most individuals, this acute infection turns into a continuous one when it’s left untreated.
Chronic Hepatitis C virus causes long-term illness which occurs when the Hepatitis C virus remains in a person’s body for an extended period. It can lead to serious liver problems which can even last for lifetime. Cirrhosis and liver cancer are a result of this disease type.
Hepatitis C Causes
A plethora of activities can cause hepatitis C. These include:-
- Injecting drugs into the body through shared needles or syringes.
- Children born to a mother already infected with Hepatitis C virus.
- Transmission of infected blood from a person already infected with the Hepatitis C virus increases the chances of the former acquiring the disease.
- Organ transplantation and blood transfusion also make for common causes of the spread of Hepatitis C infection.
- Usage of personal care items of an infected individual, such as razors and toothbrush can also be a cause of the spread of Hepatitis C virus.
- The risk of transmission through sexual contact is quite low. However, individuals with multiple sex partners suffering from STDs or infected by the HIV and engage in rough intercourse activities are at a higher risk.
- Use of unsterilized body piercing or tattooing equipment is also attributed as carriers of Hepatitis C virus.
- Dried blood spills make a part of the list. The Hepatitis C virus remains active up to 3 weeks at the normal body temperature, on environmental surfaces.
Please note, Hepatitis C virus does not spread by coughing, sharing utensils, breastfeeding, sneezing or by sharing food and water.
Hepatitis C Symptoms
Acute Hepatitis C Symptoms
There’s no such list of well-defined acute symptoms of Hepatitis C. However, infected individuals usually witness the below-mentioned symptoms during an early stage.
- abdominal pain
- joint pain
- jaundice (at times)
People caught by Hepatitis C virus do not, generally, showcase any symptoms right away. They take a period of 2 weeks to 6 months to appear post exposure to the virus. A major chunk of the infected population does not really know that the virus has invaded their bodies and mistake these symptoms with other similar conditions or infections.
Chronic Hepatitis C Symptoms
Chronic Hepatitis C symptoms are visible only after a long stretch of time. In a few cases, individuals realize they have been infected post their liver starts to trouble them. The best way to confirm or deny the presence of this fatal virus in the body is by getting tested at a pathology lab. A Hepatitis C test is effective and widely offered by all the leading pathology labs of the nation.
Chronic Hepatitis C condition, if not treated on time, can result in long-term health problems such as liver damage, liver cancer, and even liver failure. It is also a common cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis C Test
Studies reveal that most individuals infected with the virus of Hepatitis C are not aware of their condition. They either come to know about the presence of the virus when they go for donating blood or during their regular medical checkup. Furthermore, most people mistake the symptoms of Hepatitis C virus with that of a liver infection and hence, stay unaware of the condition.
Physicians around the world recommend that if anyone witnesses the symptoms mentioned above of Hepatitis C, must get tested right away. There are a number of tests that help in detecting this chronic condition.
- Anti-HVC Antibody Test – This test typically looks for the presence of antibodies to Hepatitis C virus in the bloodstream. These antibodies indicate that an HCV infection has invaded the body. While it’s considered an effective test, it, however, cannot specify whether the current condition is an acute one or a long term infection. Enzyme Immunoassay (EIA) is usually the first and foremost Hepatitis C test recommended by physicians.
- HCV RIBA – This is yet another test that aids in the detection of Hepatitis C antibodies in the bloodstream. The test specifies whether the positive result obtained was due to an acute HCV condition or whether it was a false alarm (any other condition causing similar symptoms). It’s typically known as a double check test amid doctors.
- HCV Genotype Testing – In general terms, genotype means the genetic structure of an organism. The virus of Hepatitis C showcases different types of genotypes which have their own subtypes. This test helps in knowing the type of Hepatitis C genotype a patient has in order to determine the best treatment type. It also helps in predicting the likelihood of curing the virus.
- HCV Genetic Material Test – This test makes use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to check for the presence of an active virus in the body. The RNA generally remains in the human body for a minimum of two weeks post exposure to the virus. HCV RNA test is done to double-check a positive test result showcased by HCV antibody test. It measures the level of virus in the blood or tells how well a patient with this virus us reacting to an on-going treatment.
- HCV Quantitative Test – Otherwise known as Viral Load, the test type is performed before and during treatment in order to check how effective the treatment has been till date, and whether any changes are required to improve the condition of the patient.
Hepatitis C Treatment
Treatment against an acute Hepatitis C condition is possible. In certain cases, the infection gets removed from the body by its own immune system, or it becomes latent in nature, and hence, no treatment is required. But the chances of the infection remaining latent forever are very low. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that individuals who experience even the mildest of symptoms of Hepatitis C must get tested right away. The treatment of an acute Hepatitis C condition is more or less same as that done in the case of a chronic Hepatitis C infection.
But when it comes to the treatment of a chronic Hepatitis C condition, a combination of antiviral medicines is given to fight the viral infection and keep away serious conditions such as liver cancer or cirrhosis. In addition to this, routine blood tests are also recommended in order to allow the attending physician to monitor the condition and see whether any changes are required against the on-going treatment and medications.
The virus of Hepatitis C is very different than that of Hepatitis A, B, D, and E. Hepatitis C symptoms are hard to detect as they showcase six different types of genotypes and their subtypes. The genotype of the most common Hepatitis C virus varies according to the demographics. Type 1 virus is generally found in the United States and Europe, whereas Type 3 is common in India and the Eastern countries. So far, Type 4 virus is known to affect the people of Africa & the Middle East. With such widespread and varying genotypes, having a single vaccine for Hepatitis C is not possible. Though physicians across the globe are doing their best to develop a vaccine that helps in eliminating the virus type permanently from the human system.